News Release

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July 3, 1998

House Approves Spending Program To Encourage Drug Testing
For Small Businesses

        July 2, 1998, Washington, D.C.:   The House overwhelmingly approved legislation last week encouraging small businesses to implement drug testing programs.  The bill, H.R. 3853, provides grants to non-profit advocacy organizations promoting drug-free workplaces, and encourages states to offer financial incentive programs to encourage businesses to adopt drug testing procedures.
        "The passage of this legislation needlessly jeopardizes the privacy rights of approximately 50 percent of the nation's workforce," said attorney Tanya Kangas of The NORML Foundation.  "Drug testing, particularly urinalysis, is an intrusive search that lacks the ability to determine impairment while on the job.  In addition, these procedures unfairly target marijuana smokers who may test positive for days or even weeks after the euphoric effects of the drug have worn off."
        Ninety-two percent of companies that test for drugs use urine testing, according to the American Management Association.  Many of these are large companies that accept federal contracts and are therefore required to drug test employees under the Federal Drug Free Workplace Act of 1988.  Urine tests detect the presence of non-psychoactive metabolites that are indicative of past use of certain licit and illicit drugs.  A positive test result, even when confirmed, does not indicate drug abuse or addiction, recency, frequency, or amount of drug use, or impairment.
        "It is unfair to force workers who are not even suspected of using drugs, and whose job performance is satisfactory, to 'prove' their innocence through a degrading and uncertain procedure that violates personal privacy," declared the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in a released statement opposing suspicionless drug testing.  "Such test are unnecessary because they cannot detect impairment and, thus, in no way enhance an employer's ability to evaluate or predict job performance."
        Kangas added that the legislation demands taxpayers to foot the bill on a procedure that is neither necessary nor favored by a majority of Americans.
        The House passed the measure by a vote of 402 to 9.
        For more information, please contact either Tanya Kangas or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

Medical Marijuana Distribution Bill Defeated In State Assembly

        July 2, 1998, Sacramento, CA:   Legislation seeking to authorize local governments to establish medical marijuana distribution programs fell two votes shy of passage in the Assembly Health Committee Tuesday.
        California NORML Coordinator Dale Gieringer criticized the bill's defeat.  "This proposal offered a comprehensive, realistic solution to the short-term medical marijuana distribution problem," he said.
        Senate Bill 1887, introduced by Sen. John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara), was a response to a mandate in Proposition 215 calling on the government to "implement a plan to provide for the safe and affordable distribution to all patients in medical need."  The measure sought to make use of an untested provision in the federal Controlled Substances Act that immunizes local officials who comply with local drug laws from federal sanctions.
        The most vocal opposition to the bill came from a spokesman for Attorney General's Dan Lungren's office who warned that passing the measure would legalize cannabis buyers' clubs.  Lungren has waged legal battles against the state's medical marijuana dispensaries since 1996.
        The bill also called on the federal government to reschedule marijuana as a legal medicine.  "There is widespread consensus among physicians, law enforcement, patients, providers, and other stakeholders that the most effective solution [to the question of medical marijuana distribution] is for the federal government to reschedule marijuana so that it can be prescribed under the same strict protocols as morphine and cocaine," it stated.
        Voting on the bill followed party lines, but abstention by moderate Democrats left the measure without majority support.
        "It is a shame that almost two years after the passage of Proposition 215, the California Legislature continues to stall any efforts to implement a medical marijuana distribution system called for by a majority of state voters," NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup said.
        For more information, please contact either Dale Gieringer of California NORML @ (415) 563-5858 or Keith Stroup of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

Hemp Organization Issues Report To Counter White House Misinformation Campaign

        July 2, 1998, Madison, WI:   Hemp grown for industrial purposes presents no threat to public safety and is readily distinguishable from marijuana, according to a white paper issued by the North American Industrial Hemp Council (NAIHC).  The report, written by plant breeding expert Dr. David West, provides a factual basis to counter common myths and misconceptions about the plant.
        "No member of the vegetable kingdom has ever been more misunderstood than hemp," said West.  "The drug enforcement agencies, by disseminating false information, have created a mythology about Cannabis sativa that ill serves the nation, its farmers, and its industry.  ... This paper is intended to ... offer scientific evidence so that farmers, policy makers, manufacturers, and the general public can distinguish between myth and reality."
        The report discounts theories that hemp contains the necessary percentage of THC, the compound in marijuana that gives the plant its euphoric effects, to get users intoxicated.  "The THC levels in hemp are so low that no one could get high from smoking it," the report concluded.   "Moreover, hemp contains a relatively high percentage of another cannabinoid, CBD, that actually blocks the marijuana high.  Hemp, as it turns out, is not only not marijuana, it could be called 'anti-marijuana.'"
        The report also counters the belief that regulating hemp cultivation would burden local police forces.  "In twenty-nine countries where hemp is grown as an agricultural crop, the police have experienced no such burdens," the author found.  It further stated that none of the major hemp-growing and exporting nations have ever been identified by the United States as a drug exporting nation.
        David Morris, Vice Chair of the NAIHC, said the report is necessary to counter the "remarkable barrage of falsehoods and half-truths" issued by the White House Office of Drug Control Policy and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
        "It is time for us as a nation to step back, take a deep breath, and revisit the facts," he said.
        The report, entitled Hemp & Marijuana: Myths and Realities, may be ordered on-line from the NAIHC at:
        For more information on hemp, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.